Bengaluru-based Bhavna Dalal (49), author of Checkmate Office Politics published by Sage Publications, began her journey as an entrepreneur after entering her 40s. Today, she is the founder and CEO of Talent Power Partners, a leadership development consulting company, where she assists leaders in developing goals such as executive presence, personal and organisational vision, team management, and leadership, among other skills.
As a leadership coach, Bhavna often deals with corporate leaders at all levels, and if there’s a common thread between them, it is their shared struggle towards office politics. Through her book, Bhavna aims to educate corporate employees about how and why politics exist, and how they can navigate it smoothly.
She says, “As a leadership coach, I work with managers across industries. When I work with them one-on-one or in group sessions, I get to hear how challenges manifest in their daily lives. In today’s day and age, it is all about leading through influence, and not just by hierarchy.”
Office politics forms a critical part of corporate life, and keeping away from it is not a practical strategy. It is all about maneuvering around it smoothly, and operating with a win-win attitude towards all,” she tells MAKERS India.
An engineer with MBA from IIM Calcutta, Bhavna has worked for over 25 years as a software development engineer, consultant and senior leadership in corporates in USA, South Africa, and India. Although it was a financially lucrative career, she feels entrepreneurship is her true calling.
“This is my career 2.0 - being an author, speaker, and master coach. I have a clear vision of where I want to go, and entrepreneurship was my only choice. It gave me the path to make a larger difference to people and my own life,” she shares in a chat with MAKERS India.
Good versus bad politics
The very mention of office politics evokes negative images, and associated feelings like backstabbing, favouritism and jealousy. Unfortunately, professional success is not just dependent on merit, it is also about understanding and analysing others, and coping up with these challenges.
But there’s a difference in politics that exists in the corporate world: there’s good politics and bad politics. If good politics is all about empowering people, bad politics revolves around the ‘divide and rule’ policy.
“Good politics enables leaders to further their personal interests, and that of their team. With bad politics, you need to be aware and avoid the unnecessary suffering and being taken advantage of. Good politics always attempts to empower people around them and the biggest sign of unhealthy politics is that only a handful people gain. Only a few will come out as winners in this case, and everyone else will lose,” she adds.
Her book Checkmate Office Politics helps to understand this by offering simple and practical advice to help navigate workplace politics effectively, without compromising on your ideals.
Challenges faced by women leaders
Bhavna points out that there’s an inherent difference in the behavioural patterns of women and women.
“Men and women are equal but different; men like to take charge, and women are caring. Women are considered competent leaders when they take charge, but they may not be considered as nice. And women have to work harder, because they believe that their work needs to speak for them; they don’t really promote themselves,” explains Bhavna. She believes that the ability to inspire and work towards a common vision, and be fearless and confident in making decisions, is what makes a good leader, irrespective of their gender.
In the case of women, she feels that they need to work more on being assertive. “There are times when they become too aggressive or passive, and that makes it difficult for them to build their executive presence. Some women also tend to over-explain everything, but that’s not needed,” she adds.
In short, being agile is the key for women (and men) to grow in their corporate careers.
(Edited by Athira Nair)